How do you put everything you know about Ernie Andrus into a box?

You don’t.

He is 91 years old, retired from the Navy and started his journey a week after his wife was laid to rest.  Ernie’s journey is to run from the coast of the Pacific Ocean to the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.

During his two to four year trek, he will be thinking about a lot of things and running for a lot of reasons.  He is a widower three times, his oldest daughter committed suicide and he has personal connections to the two most significant theaters during World War II: Guadalcanal and Normandy.

I had a chance to run 7.5 of his 3,000 mile journey.  When Ernie completes this journey, he will be the oldest person to run across America.  On Labor Day 2014, I had a chance to run 7.5 miles of his 3,000 mile journey.

Heading east and downhill from Datil, New Mexico, a group of us paced Ernie as he regaled us with his stories of his life in the armed services, his first jobs when he returned to civilian life, and how came about first running.

When Ernie retired, at age 61, he hit the road as a way to stay active.  He would enter 5Ks and 10Ks and has run more half marathons than he can remember.  Interestingly, he has never run a marathon.  By the time we are running together, he has already covered a distance equal to more than 25 marathons… just in 5 to 7 mile spurts.

Ernie Andrus embodies the One Medal approach of running a race as a way to honor and encourage someone or something. Ernie is running from coast to coast raising money for the restoration of the LST 325 Ship Memorial.

Tom Garrity (left) and Ernie Andrus (right) on a 7.5 mile run to raise money in honor of Ernie's friends

Tom Garrity (left) and Ernie Andrus (right) on a 7.5 mile run to raise money in honor of Ernie’s friends

The LST 325 is the only still operational ship (out of 1,051) that was part of the Normandy D day Invasion.  Ernie’s mission restoring and returning the LST 325 to the shores of Normandy as a way to honor the soldiers who gave their lives for freedom is an encouragement to all of us.

To see Ernie Andrus in action, check out this story from CBS News reporter Steve Hartman: